Concert Reviews

Audiograft 2012 Day 2

March 3, 2012

Exhausted tonight, despite being on holiday. Since getting home at about 7PM this evening I have been working hard to finish off the reviews I have written for The Wire and get them all safely packed off at least somewhere vaguely in sight of the deadline. Today was spent in the accompany of Julie and Lee Patterson, wandering around the countryside down on the Ridgeway, visiting the White Horse Hill at Uffington and Wayland’s Smithy, a neolithic burial site a mile or two further on. We had a great time, despite the foggy weather impairing the normally stunning views, laughing a lot and learning a lot courtesy of the walking wildlife wikipedia that is Mr Patterson. A good day then, just tired out tonight.

So I am only really going to write about a couple of the performances from yesterday evening’s Audiograft show at the Holywell Music Room. What I am not going to discuss in detail all ranged from OK to very interesting in places- a solo keyboard reinterpretation of some Cage works by Kerry Yong, wistfully nostalgic and quite charming storytelling with field recordings and live harp playing by Felicity Ford and the group [rout] whose considerable output included a very nice if occasionally slightly clumsy realisation of a recent James Saunders score and a set of delightfully lyrical brief instrumental movements written by one of the group Paul Newland, whose music I was new to. I’m sorry that I don’t have the energy or probably the knowledge of the work to be able to write more on these tonight.

What I did really enjoy were two pieces performed by people more familiar to me. The first, a realisation of a score named Geese by the New Yorker Ben Owen was preformed by people very familiar to me, so I will avoid making value judgements (which would be a hard thing to do with this particular performance anyway) and just describe the event… The score, which is a very minimal set of three overlaid sheets containing very little bar a few stray symbols was taken by the three musicians that form the terribly named group The Albion Players, (Sarah Hughes, Stephen Cornford and Patrick Farmer) who each developed their own personal response in isolation from the other two, so that when they began their fifteen minute realisation together none knew what the others might come up with. From the outset, both Farmer and Cornford left the hall, with both undertaking actions out of the view of the audience, Cornford completely silent at first (apparently reading something in a cupboard) and Farmer making squeaking sounds by writing very firmly on paper with charcoal. While they did this Hughes went tot he piano, where she stayed for the entire performance, and began by playing a series of fast, rhythmic two note codas that reminded me of Charlemagne Palestine, particularly as the piano was strewn with children’s toys to be used in the later [rout] performance. (The visual resemblance stopped there however). As the piece developed, so Cornford began to wander about the venue, playing a tape of a spoken voice saying something about wild geese that I cannot remember and then taking a very heavy looking metal doughnut shape, he struck it hard a few times with a mallet, the resulting chime ringing out loud and sustaining itself for quite some time. Farmer started ¬†what looked like another larger tape deck playing, its motor whirring louder than the musical output, which was limited to the slightest of unidentifiable whispers played through a set of headphones left in the middle of the hall. As Cornford took his metal ring and placed it onto a strong looking wooden turntable he had moved into the middle of the space so Hughes ceased with the metronomic patterns and began an exceedingly beautiful (sorry was that a value judgement?) section of lightly meandering piano, somewhere between a sparse Feldman and a slowed down Satie. As she did this, Farmer took a brick, tied to a long length of string, placed it near the stage and again went outside with the other end of the cord. Gradually as the piano wound about its way, Farmer ¬†began to slowly pull the brick from the hall using the length of string, and the audience was left captivated watching the turntable turn, the piano chime and the brick slide almost silently out of the room across the wooden floor.

It is hard to say what this piece was all about, if indeed it was about anything, but certainly the close relationships between the three musicians informed much of the work. The audience were left very quiet, some utterly bemused and ready to escape the concert, others, like myself utterly captivated by the simplicity, but also the Fluxus-like, quite charming surrealism of it all. A lovely fifteen minutes. I kind of hope somebody filmed it.

The other performance I really enjoyed was by the duo of Tim parkinson and James Saunders who set about a series of four brief (about four minutes each?) works that were described by the duo themselves as pop songs, with lyrics taken from a consumer survey. From the explosive beginning when the duo started bashing the table and clapping their hands in a pat-a-cake fashion, and chanting the words aloud in perfect time with one another. They rattled around big plastic boxes full of objects, beat drums, slapped coffee cups and tin pots on the tables they sat behind and sang out questioning lyrics taken directly from the survey, so pondering over such statements as “It is important to keep young looking”, “I will not let my children eat junk food”, “I think its important to do all the housework” and other information that advertisers love to know.

While the entire hall fell about laughing, myself included at the brilliantly disgraceful spectacle of such a performance on such a bill of music, the duo took the music very seriously, and actually were extremely well rehearsed and kept time immaculately, which was actually very difficult given the way they each often finished each other sentences while chanting at quite a speed. Placing this music in this hall in this way was a statement in itself, but it wasn’t a joke, and while I don’t think it was intended to pick fault with the seriousness of everything else taking place (there was actually a lot of humour on show right through the evening) the work did seem to suggest that creative modern composition could take many forms and that the pop song was as valid a vehicle as any to make a statement. While I am not so sure I would want to hear such music on every bill, I enjoyed Parkinson and Saunders set massively and for varying reasons.

Tonight, Friday, I have not attended any of the Audiograft shows, taking a much needed break on a night that I felt I was less interested in. tomorrow the festival ends with what could be a potentially great evening of music involving Cremaster and the duo of Lee Patterson and Rob Curgenven amongst others. Come along if you can. Tonight’s picture is a grainy shot of Farmer’s brick just leaving the Holywell’s hall as Cornford’s turntable whirred away silently.

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